In an interview with BBC Newsbeat, Craig Duncan, studio head of Rare (creators of classics such as Banjo Kazooie and Viva Pinata), has said the gaming industry “needs to do a better job at getting a mix of age and gender in our teams.”
“The more diverse culture we have as a studio, the better games we produce for everyone,” he told Newsbeat.
Craig is unequivocally right: gaming is an industry which has mostly been dominated by men. The problem that arises from this is that games designed by a majority male team will have a tendency to be directed more towards a male audience, losing a balanced perspective and leading to women being poorly represented and often objectified.
Take the recently announced Omega Labyrinth from D3. D3 have a history of dubious games but this new one takes the cake. Omega Labyrinth revolves around the female students of the Anberriel Girls’ Academy. It’s pretty unusual to see an all-female video game, but believe me you are not to feel encouraged. The player is able to select students to navigate the dungeon to win the Cup of Beauty and be granted one wish. Conveniently, all the girls of the academy have the same wish: to increase their bust size. Honestly. Defeating enemies in the game allows each girl to increase her ‘womanly power’ which is, you guessed it, stored in her breasts, which will balloon in size as her stats increase. And the fun doesn’t stop there: the game utilises PS Vita’s touch pad for some gameplay that’s for ages 17 and above only.
And an excellent example of what happens when you leave women out of game development: someone inevitably misreads the word plot for tits. When you see a game where the only discernible reason for an all-female cast is that each character is nothing more than another fantasy-fulfilling object, it hardly endears you to enter, or even participate in, the industry that has enabled this creation that doesn’t see you as a person worth respecting.
This is, of course, the darkest overly-masculine depths of the industry, and is something that can only be stopped by starting at the surface and digging down to the creep-core, clearing the way with gender-balancing blasts.
Craig tells Newsbeat that he thinks the place to start solving the gaming industry’s masculine reputation is in schools:
“We know games are played by every gender, age, background and ethnicity and we know games teams don’t have that makeup.
“Wherever possible our job as an industry is to go into schools and speak to young people to inspire them. I think when you get to university age a lot of people have already opted into what they want to study. If you take a computer science degree or a game development degree, if there are 100 people on that course and 90 are male then that influences our talent pool and who [we’re] going to hire.”
Fortunately, there are programmes to bring more young women into coding and game development. One which helps this start from home is online course creator, Tynker.
Applied early on, courses like this – which approach coding and programming in a fun and accessible way – enable young girls to develop a passion and a talent for game development before someone has the nerve to tell them they can’t. But we can’t rely on that. Telling your daughter she can do anything and providing her with the tools to do it simply won’t be enough until the toxic attitude of condescension and superiority towards women in STEM subjects is eradicated and we are made to feel more welcome in a place where we absolutely deserve to be.
Craig says that he’s focusing on promoting the industry as a cool place to work for everyone, whatever gender or background but states, “I still don’t think we do enough […] We need to continue to show it’s a fantastic industry to work in.”
Hopefully, an industry boss stating the truth as starkly as this is one way to make everyone else take off their VR headsets and see reality: the gaming industry can and should be more active in recruiting women, and it has a responsibility to make this happen. It’s partly for them; to get a diverse range of people creating games can only lead to improvements in game quality and player satisfaction. And it’s partly because, well, it’s the right fucking thing to do.
Main Image: © iStock/georgiejevic